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Richard Norman Kleaveland

September 10, 1926 November 16, 2018
Richard Norman Kleaveland
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Obituary for Richard Norman Kleaveland

Dr. Richard Norman Kleaveland passed away on November 16, 2018 at the age of 92. He died peacefully and was surrounded by family and love.

He was born on September 10, 1926 in Sioux Rapids, Iowa to Ingram and Hildreth Kleaveland, the third of four boys. His “extraction” was one-half Norwegian, plus one-half Swiss and English. He and his brothers identified strongly with their Norwegian heritage, in part due to the presence of their grandfather Ole, who emigrated to the US from Norway in 1892.

After having a chance to work with his veterinary father in providing large animal services to farms in northwestern Iowa, he decided to work on humans instead. He started pre-med studies at Iowa State University, the alma mater of his brothers and parents. He interrupted his pre-med work, to enlist in the US Naval Reserve and was trained as a radar technician, and served between 1945 and 1946 in Galveston, Texas.

After finishing pre-med studies at Iowa State, he was accepted at Northwestern Medical School in Chicago completing two years before transferring to Harvard Medical School in 1949, where he graduated in 1951. Besides his medical studies, his years in Chicago gave him the opportunity to meet a beautiful young Northwestern undergraduate named Sally Essex. He married Sally on June 16, 1951 at the Essex farm outside of Rochester, Minnesota. They remained happily married for 67 years and had five sons.

He did his internship and residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston between 1951 and 1956, specializing in the emerging field of vascular surgery. He recalled routinely working 100 hours weekly at the princely sum of $25 a month. He was 30 when he completed his training.

He started his practice in Spokane shortly thereafter, attracted by a family friendly environment, the great outdoors, proximity to skiing, and ample opportunities for an ambitious young surgeon. He operated successfully on his first aortic aneurysm patient in 1956. He liked to joke that he was the best and worst vascular surgeon between Seattle and Minneapolis, noting that at the time he was the only vascular surgeon in that area.
He settled in to a long and successful career in Spokane with staff appointments at Sacred Heart, Deaconess and St. Luke’s and active participation in both regional and national medical organizations including the Spokane Surgical Society, the North Pacific Surgical Society, and the International Society of Cardiovascular Surgery.

He was also a patented inventor of surgical devices (see patent 3,863,639) and published author with articles in such prestigious journals as the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Surgeon.

He and Sally enjoyed a very active life in Spokane with a rich network of friends and colleagues in this close knit and collegial medical community. They traveled extensively, with trips to the Soviet Union, China, Africa, Egypt and many other destinations, taking advantage of far-flung continuing medical education opportunities to expand his knowledge of medical practices while also providing exciting adventures for Sally and him.

He retired in 1998 from practice at age 72 after 42 years of service to the Spokane community and Inland Empire. He was an enthusiastic sportsman in his spare time and particularly loved snow skiing, tennis and golf. He also enjoyed many blissful summers with Sally, family and friends at their beloved lake cabin on Spirit Lake, Idaho.

He remained connected to Iowa by purchasing a hog and grain farm with brother Justin, with farm management provided by his brother Rodney, thus beginning annual pilgrimages to Sioux Rapids for over 40 years.

He was a hard worker, insatiably curious, relentlessly optimistic, and always fair. He was a good man.

He is survived by his wife Sally, and their five sons, Richard, Lanse, Bruce (Laurie), Jay, and Jeff (Alicia), and four grandchildren Kate, Henry, Jackson, and Brady. The family would like to express our deep appreciation for the caring attention of the nurses, staff, and assistants during his final days at Rockwood. We would also like to thank the staff of Hospice of Spokane who provided such kind, thoughtful, and knowledgeable support to our father and our family during his final passage.

Memorial services will be held on Saturday, March 16, 2019, 3:00pm at the Rockwood South Hill event center.

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Previous Events

Memorial Service




3:00 AM 3/16/2019 3:00:00 AM
Rockwood Retirement Community Summit Building Event Center

2903 E 25th Ave Spokane, WA 99223
Spokane, WA 99223

Rockwood Retirement Community Summit Building Event Center
2903 E 25th Ave Spokane, WA 99223 Spokane 99223 WA
United States

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